The Longest-Serving Congressman on His Impending Retirement: "I Find Serving in the House to Be Obnoxious"

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 24 2014 9:50 AM

John Dingell, Longest-Serving Member of Congress, to Retire

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) speaks during an event marking the third anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act at the U.S. Capitol March 20, 2013 in Washington

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving lawmaker in congressional history, won't run for reelection. Here's the Detroit News with the scoop:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"I’m not going to be carried out feet first," says Dingell, who will be 88 in July. "I don’t want people to say I stayed too long."
Dingell says his health "is good enough that I could have done it again. My doctor says I’m OK. And I’m still as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill. But I’m not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term."
More than health concerns, Dingell says a disillusionment with the institution drove his decision to retire. "I find serving in the House to be obnoxious," he says. "It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets."

Dingell was 29 years old when he first won his seat in Congress in 1955 after the death of his father, who had served the district for the previous two decades. This past summer the Michigan Democrat passed the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia as the longest-serving congressman in either chamber's history.

Despite his departure, Dingell's district likely won't be in play for Republicans later this year: Obama won 66 percent of the vote there in the past presidential election, and it's considered safely dark blue.

Dingell joins a growing list of congressmen and women on both sides of the aisle to announce that they won't stand for reelection this fall. Still, the departures are largely business as usual. Since 1973, nearly 10 percent of Congress has willingly moved on before the next Congress got underway, according to the Wire, which crunched the numbers earlier this month.

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This post has been updated.



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